Can Kids Travel Alone?
If you're a minor flying internationally or taking a domestic flight alone or with an adult who is not your legal guardian, you're considered an "unaccompanied minor." And to travel on your own, there are certain documents you need to have with you, including a child travel consent form.
Whether you're traveling somewhere fun for spring break or going on a boring class trip, here's what you should know before finding your gate at the airport.
Are You an Unaccompanied Minor?
You're an unaccompanied minor if you're a child between 5 and 18 years old traveling alone. Airlines can have different rules and may charge unaccompanied minor fees for services like:
- Check-in assistance
- Airline staff escorts for connecting flights
- Lounge access and gate passes
- Trackable wristbands
You, your parents, or your guardians should check your airline policy requirements before your trip and find out if they have their own unaccompanied minor form. Many airlines have their unaccompanied minor service fees and unaccompanied minor policies available on their websites including:
Do You Need a Child Travel Consent Form?
A child travel consent form acts as permission from your parents or guardian allowing you to travel alone. Also, if your parents are divorced or legally separated and you're traveling with one of them, you may need to show that your other parent signed this form. The purpose of this consent form is to prevent one of your parents from taking you to another country in violation of the International Parental Child Abduction Act. You may also need to provide your birth certificate.
Information You Need for a Child Consent Form
To fill out the consent form, you need:
- Your name
- Your date of birth/place of birth
- Your passport number (if you're traveling outside the United States)
- Your travel dates and flight itinerary
- The name of the adult traveling with you (if this person is NOT your parent or legal guardian)
- Emergency contact information, including their name, address, phone number, and email address
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection advises that children traveling to another country alone should have both parents sign the written consent letter. You should also tell your parents to have it notarized (they will know what this means).
Other Documents You May Need
Traveling alone as a minor may sound exciting, but you want to be as prepared as possible. In case there's an emergency and you need medical attention, be sure to carry the following with you:
- Your medical insurance card
- A HIPAA form allowing doctors to access your medical information from your regular doctor
- A medical consent form allowing doctors to treat you without your parents or guardian present
Other Travel Tips
If you're traveling as an unaccompanied child, there are some other things you can do to make sure your trip goes smoothly:
- Have your parents or another well-traveled adult explain the process of going to the ticket counter, going through security checkpoints, boarding a flight, asking flight attendants for help, and where to put your carry-on baggage.
- Know your flight number, departure gate, destination airport, and who is responsible for drop-off and pick-up prior to your trip.
- Keep a photo id with your other travel documents.
- Ask your parents for a credit card in case of emergency and for in-flight purchases (But don't take advantage of it!).
- Book a non-stop flight (direct flight) if possible to avoid issues that often come up during layovers and connecting flights and make sure to get a round-trip ticket if necessary.
- Avoid booking the last flight of the day in case of flight cancellation or delays.
- Download the airline's app on your phone to keep track of your flight status.
- For international flights, find out if your destination requires you to have any other documentation.
Have fun and be safe!
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